A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 129

The love that rose on stronger wings,
Unpalsied when he met with Death,
Is comrade of the lesser faith
That sees the course of human things.


No doubt vast eddies in the flood
Of onward time shall yet be made,
And throned races may degrade;
Yet, O ye mysteries of good,


Wild Hours that fly with Hope and Fear,
If all your office had to do
With old results that look like new;
If this were all your mission here,


To draw, to sheathe a useless sword,
To fool the crowd with glorious lies,
To cleave a creed in sects and cries,
To change the bearing of a word,


To shift an arbitrary power,
To cramp the student at his desk,
To make old bareness picturesque
And tuft with grass a feudal tower;


Why then my scorn might well descend
On you and yours. I see in part
That all, as in some piece of art,
Is toil cöoperant to an end.

The love that rose on stronger wings,
Unpalsied when he met with Death,
Is comrade of the lesser faith
That sees the course of human things.


No doubt vast eddies in the flood
Of onward time shall yet be made,
And throned races may degrade;
Yet, O ye mysteries of good,


Wild Hours that fly with Hope and Fear,
If all your office had to do
With old results that look like new;
If this were all your mission here,


To draw, to sheathe a useless sword,
To fool the crowd with glorious lies,
To cleave a creed in sects and cries,
To change the bearing of a word,


To shift an arbitrary power,
To cramp the student at his desk,
To make old bareness picturesque
And tuft with grass a feudal tower;


Why then my scorn might well descend
On you and yours. I see in part
That all, as in some piece of art,
Is toil cöoperant to an end.

The power that Tennyson sees as second only to that of the risen Christ, is the ability to look hopefully on human history and to act. He identifies the components of this ability as “mysteries” in the old sense of skilled trades. These might seem only to achieve the kind of very limited successes that Tennyson lists, but are to be understood as contributing to a final good.

He compares their cooperant toil to that of creating a work of art, such as this poem. He wants his reader to know that all the varied pieces he has placed together are justified by their end, the whole poem speaking its truth.

I wish I could say the same of the writings I produced in my grieving for my daughter. Neither the individual bits nor the overall design show the skill and care of Tennyson. The gap between real poets and occasional versifiers is huge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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